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FASHION

Why Elle Germany has been called out over ‘back to black’ issue

Fashion magazine Elle Germany has issued an apology over a 'racist' issue which features a tagline that appears to suggest models of colour are back in fashion.

Why Elle Germany has been called out over 'back to black' issue
Joan Smalls, pictured on the catwalk during Milan Fashion Week in 2016, was one of the models in the feature. Photo: DPA

People across the world have been reacting furiously to the November issue of the magazine, which has 'back to black – black is back again – irresistibly' written on the cover, next to a picture of a white model.

Meanwhile, a feature in the publication shows the profiles of six black 'new' models, including the famous catwalk star, Joan Smalls.

The feature says:  “Beautiful, successful, engaged: Never have models of colour been so in demand as now. These amazing women inspire us both on and off the catwalk.”

Furthermore, the biography next to the model Janaye Furman mistakenly features a picture of Naomi Chin Wing.

Instagram account Diet Prada, known for calling out the fashion world, posted on Instagram to say it wasn't a good look.

“You can’t make this stuff up!” they wrote in the post.

In a statement, the publication said it regretted “making several mistakes”, adding “we apologise to anyone we might have hurt”.

READ ALSO: Sharing stories of everyday racism: #MeTwo takes off in Germany

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

Not a good look, @ellegermany . For their November 2019 issue, the presumably white-led publication declares that “black is back”. Ironic when they, along with much of the fashion industry, have been complicit in denying visibility to black models until relatively recently. Oh, and apparently they can’t actually tell models apart. In the bottom middle, a picture of @naomichinwing is used in place of @iam_janaye . And @joansmalls has been around for a minute/hasn’t gone anywhere lmao. The issue, titled “Back to Black”, also features a white model on the cover. You can’t make this stuff up! • #elle #ellemagazine #ellegermany #naomichinwing #janayefurman #models #blackmodels #modelsofcolor #runway #fashionweek #fashionmonth #pfw #nyfw #mfw #lfw #paris #london #milan #nyc #wtf #fail #magazine #print #editorial #editor #editorinchief #media #sabinenedelchev #dietprada

A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada) on Oct 29, 2019 at 8:10am PDT

On Wednesday afternoon more than 86,000 people had liked the Diet Prada post, while people vented their outrage in the comments.

One user wrote: “What a boring editorial framework on their part even if it wasn’t ahistorical and racist.”

Another said: “This is what happens when companies who “want” to be diverse try to speak on diversity and have no diversity in their offices….”

Supermodel Naomi Campbell wrote in an Instagram post that the actions were “highly insulting in every way”. She added: “It's ok to celebrate models of colour but please do it in an elegant and respectful way.”
 

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

Dear sabine nedelchev @ellegermany This makes me so sad to see this, @bethannhardison @the_real_iman and I are here if you are not clear on the guide lines of diversity.. your mistake it is highly insulting in every way, .. you go further to say that BACK TO BLACK, even if you ment the fashion it’s is misleading on your headline and Type !! ! I’ve said countless of times we are not a TREND. We are here to STAY. It’s ok to celebrate models of color but please do it in an ELEGANT and RESPECTFUL way . I too in my career have seen pictures of others models called me just because of the color of our Skin, and recently seen many pictures of models of color being called being @adutakech .. do you know what it feels like to do the job ( @naomichinwing ) and not even be given the right name credit ? . Very disappointing to say the least . If you would like a conversation to know how to have A diverse mind we are here to sit and accommodate . It’s very important for a publication to be culturally sensitive and give credit where it’s due . We all need to unite on this matter NAOMI THANK YOU @diet_prada . #defendingmybabies ♥️

A post shared by Naomi Campbell (@naomi) on Oct 29, 2019 at 2:21pm PDT

The magazine has also sparked a debate over lack of diversity in Germany.

Motsi Mabuse, a South African dancer who has appeared on Let's Dance, the German version of Strictly Come Dancing, said in an Instagram post: “Another day for us black woman in Germany…I am sure Elle Germany meant no harm. Not trying to defend or attack anyone!!

“I do think if there was more diversity in the firm or in the magazine advising this would never have happened!!! Black is not back lol! It was never allowed.”

Mabuse went on to thank Elle for apologizing but said it wasn't enough. She called for “more inclusiveness”.

In the statement Elle's editor Sabine Nedelchev said: “In our current issue we are approaching the colour black from different angles. 

“As one of the topics it was our aim to feature strong black women who work as models for the fashion industry. 

“In doing so, we have made several mistakes which we apologise to anyone we might have hurt.

“It was a mistake to use the cover line 'back to black' which could be understood as if black persons would be a kind of fashion trend.

“This obviously wasn't our intention and it was our mistake not to be more sensitive about this. 

“Misidentifying the model Naomi Chin Wing as Janaye Furman has also been a mistake which we regret and for which we apologise. 

“We are aware how problematic this is. This has definitely been a learning experience for us and we apologise for anyone we may have hurt or offended.”

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

A post shared by ELLE Germany (@ellegermany) on Oct 30, 2019 at 2:29am PDT

 

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CULTURE

‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

Germans have an international reputation for enjoying functional clothing. A top German fashion expert told The Local whether the stereotypes of German fashion are really true - and what Angela Merkel has to do with modern style.

‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

‘Comfortable and practical’

“It’s pretty easy to define German style,” says Bernhard Roetzel, the author of books on men’s fashion such as ‘Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion’. “Nowadays the basic dress of a grown-up man is mainly blue jeans, some kind of sweatshirt and an anorak. The shoes are usually comfortable sneakers. This is the basic German fashion that everyone from workers to doctors wears, and it is suitable for 90 percent of occasions.”

The basic theme, he says, is comfort and practicality. “That is very important.”

According to Roetzel, this love for the practical stretches all the way back into the 19th century when most other Europeans still had strict public dress codes.

“It began with a movement called Lebensreform, which valued things like vegetarianism and woollen clothes, which were supposed to be healthy,” he says.

“Even if Germans at the time didn’t like political freedom, they loved the freedom to wear sandals. Freedom for Germans is to wear sandals in places where it is not appropriate!”

A woman lies on the shore of the Schwarzachtalsee in Baden-Württemberg still wearing her sandals. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Thomas Warnack

Dressing down became even more acceptable after the First World War, when Germany became a republic and the aristocracy, with its formal sense of dress, lost its importance. “The Nazis also propagated being active outdoors,” Roetzel notes. “Fashion was seen as something awful created by the French and the Jews to bring about the downfall of German culture.”

When the craze for casual wear crossed the pond from the US in the 1960s, Germans were slow to adopt it. But now jeans are even standard clothing for septuagenarians, he says. “Twenty years after jeans arrived people started to realise that they are great for all occasions – and now everyone wears them. This was the last blow to formal German clothing.”

Dress down for work

The German love for all-purpose clothes means that it is perfectly appropriate to wear jeans to work, according to Roetzel. 

“If you don’t work in a bank or law firm you can probably wear jeans in most offices. A non-iron, short sleeve shirt is also very important. German men love these shirts, despite the fact that you get hot in them.”

You can even wear sneakers in the office. Or, if you have to look a bit smarter “some very cheap, comfortable leather shoes” will make you fit right in.

“In business, it is very important that you don’t stand out,” Roetzel advises. “If you are smartly dressed people will ask if you have an important meeting or will think you are looking for a pay rise. For everyday business, you dress as casually as possible.”

A woman cycles to work in jeans and a simple jacket in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Christin Klose

Nothing too sexy

Meanwhile, women’s workplace style, perhaps even more than men’s, is based on the principle of ‘the more forgettable the better.’

“Women in German business must not look too sexy,” says the fashion writer. “If you wear a skirt, for example, it should not be too short and heels should not be too high.” A “boxy, mouse grey suit” including a jacket that doesn’t complement one’s figure completes the look.

“Whereas in Italy, businesswomen carry Chanel bags, in Germany they usually carry a laptop bag or something very practical. Makeup is also rather reduced, not too much lipstick, nothing that is too obvious,” he says.

No door policy

Ties are basically a redundant piece of apparel in modern Germany, meaning wearing one really is a matter of choice in most settings.

“There are very few places where you are not allowed in if you don’t wear a tie,” says Roetzel. “I don’t know a single restaurant that wouldn’t admit you if you don’t wear a tie. You might not be allowed into Cologne Cathedral if your shorts are too short, but basically, you can wear everything everywhere and Germans love this!”

Funerals and weddings

Even the most formal occasions, such as weddings, funerals and important birthdays are much more informal events than they once were.

“At funerals, people will wear black but they rarely wear a black suit, most people will wear a black sweatshirt and jeans,” says Roetzel.

Copy Merkel

Angela Merkel’s unpretentious style appealed to Germans. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Fabian Sommer

Anyone looking for inspiration need look no further than recently retired German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who famously wore variations on the same trouser suit for most of her career.

“She had different colours and fabrics but that was her uniform and she also found her hairstyle and that was it. I don’t think she had a stylist,” Roetzel says. “That’s what Germans love. It’s recognizable and it doesn’t look expensive.”

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“In Germany, one thing you should never admit to is wearing expensive, tailor-made clothes,” he explains. “As a politician, you can admit that you like drinking but you should never admit to having an expensive wardrobe.”

In fact, the cheaper the better. “Olaf Scholz has always earned a lot of money but his clothes are awful, his suits are awful – this is just perfect for Germany,” says Roetzel.

Splash the cash subtly (or on outdoor clothes)

This is not to say that all Germans wear cheap clothes, but they don’t make a big fuss about the brands that they do wear.

“People want to express status by wearing certain brands,” Roetzel points out. “But in Germany, this is done in a very subtle way. You will see small details in the clothes and glasses of a professor or doctor that will tell you a lot. Class exists but people hide their status because it is negative to show it off. This can be hard for foreigners to detect.”

There is one major exemption thought to the rule of not flaunting your wealth – outdoor apparel.

“Outdoor clothes are really a big thing here,” Roetzel says. “It gives people a sense of freedom and healthiness. Spending €800 on an outdoor jacket is perfectly okay. But it is a sin to spend the same amount on a tailor-made suit – you will destroy your image if you admit to doing this.”

Moreover, anyone who wants to impress Germans through their possessions would be better advised to buy a good car or modern kitchen, the fashion expert says. “It is perfectly normal to have a very expensive kitchen, but your clothes should still be cheap.”

Focus on inner beauty

The German (dis)interest in fashion can actually tell us a lot about deeper German values.

“There is an old Prussian saying of mehr sein als schein (content is better than appearance). Germans feel that if something is too beautiful there must be something fishy about it. Anyone who is too smartly dressed could be a conman,” says Roetzel.

“Germans are very honest, they like to be very direct. They say “what’s the point in not wearing sandals if it’s hot?’”

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